Photo via Telam

Former Planning Minister and current VIctory Front (FpV) National Deputy, Julio De Vido, is facing the first day of the trial against him for – still allegedly – being partially responsible for the 2012 once railway tragedy, in which 51 people were killed and 789 injured. Even though he has also been indicted in four other cases, this is the first time he sits before a tribunal that will determine his fate.

De Vido arrived to the federal courthouse located on Comodoro Py at 9 30 AM but didn’t talk to the press. Before the tribunal began the hearing, his lawyer, Maximiliano Rusconi, read a written statement where he argued that the accusations against his client have no foundations, and that they will prove it. All judges and prosecutors who have intervened in the case have concluded otherwise.

In May last year Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, tasked with determining the facts and send the case to trial if he considered there was enough evidence to, effectively indicted De Vido. He did it on the grounds that, as Planning Minister, he could not have been oblivious to the deteriorated and sub-par state of the railway system – considered the main factor that caused the tragedy.

In July that same year, the a Federal Appeals Court upheld Bonadio’s prosecution,stating that as Planning Minister, “he did not properly monitor the operations [regarding] the trains, the infrastructure, […] personnel and the use of public funds for the company Buenos Aires Trains S.A.”

Photo via Telam
Photo via Telam

The investigation over De Vido’s role in the tragedy went down a rather strange path, since he wasn’t initially included among the accused. In the first “Once” trial, which concluded in December 2015, the tribunal sentenced former Transportation Secretaries Ricardo Jaime and Juan Pablo Schiavi – who worked under De Vido throughout his tenure as Planning Minister between 2003 and 2015 – to six and eight years in prison, respectively. Several others were sentenced, but we are focusing on these two people because they were the public officials who answered to him.

However, only when reading the ruling the judges ordered the former minister be investigated for potentially having had responsibility in the tragedy. Different judges and appeals courts concluded this was the case and almost two years later, he’s sitting in the same bench as his subordinates before him.

However, we won’t know whether De Vido will be sentenced for quite some time. This process is extremely long and even if the tribunal finds him guilty, he will have the possibility to appeal the decision. First, to an Appeals Court, and if this one confirms the initial ruling, to the Cassation Court – the highest criminal court in the country.

But even if the verdict is unfavorable, he might not go to prison. since the Criminal Code states that people in Argentina only do so if they’re sentenced to at least three years in jail, he could get probation and thus avoid doing any actual time behind bars. However, considering that he would get between three and 11 years in prison if found guilty of all charges, the chances of him walking out if he effectively gets sentenced are rather slim.

During rush hour on February 22nd, 2012, Train 16 of the Sarmiento line crashed into the buffers at the Once train station, the end of the line, because the brakes were not activated. The first three carriages, which were full of commuters, were severely damaged, resulting in the death of 51 people (including an unborn child) and 789 injured.